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164                                                                                                           B. POLEVOI
he had crawled in the forest. But the relations between
these two young people had been broken off so abruptly,
and at such an indefinite stage, that in the letters they
wrote they communicated with each other as good, old
friends, fearing to add to this that bigger thing that had,
after all, remained unspoken.
And now, finding himself in hospital, he noticed with
perplexity, which increased with each letter he received,
that Olya herself had suddenly gone out to meet him, as
it were, that now in her letters she wrote quite frankly
of her longing, regretted that Uncle Arkasha had come
for them just at that particular moment that evening,
assured him that whatever happened to him there was
one upon whom he could always rely, and begged him to
remember when wandering far from home that there
was a corner which he could regard as his own, to which
he could return when the war was over. It seemed as
though it was a new, a different Olya who was writing.
Whenever he looked at her photograph, he always
thought that if a breeze were to blow she would fly away
in her flowered frock, like the parachute seeds of ripe
dandelion. But those letters were written by a woman—
a good, loving woman who was longing and waiting for
her beloved. This gladdened and saddened him; glad-
dened him in spite of himself, saddened him because he
thought he had no right to such love. Why, he had not
had the courage to write that he was no longer the
vigorous, sunburned youth that she had known, but a
cripple like Uncle Arkasha. Not having dared to write
the truth for fear it would kill his invalid mother, he
was now obliged to deceive Olya and became more and
more entangled in this deception with every letter he
That is why the letters he received from Kamyshin
roused such contradictory feelings in him—joy and sor-
row, hope and anxiety—they cheered and tormented hirft
at one and the same time. Having told a falsehood once,
he was obliged to go on inventing others, but he was a
bad hand at such inventions, and that is why his answers
to Olya were curt and dry.
He found it easier to write to the "meteorological
sergeant". Hers was a simple but devoted soul. In a